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Day 49 bus 1 Zuglo district Budapest

11 June 2018

Today we experienced that Minimum Income has some political support in Hungary. Together with 3 young volunteers who are working for an organisation for homeless people in Budapest in the framework of the European Volunteer Service, we went to visit Zuglo, a  districtrict of Budapest with 125.000 inhabitants, that introduced a local minimum income scheme in the municipality from the moment the competence was transferred to the local level in 2015. Unfortunately they are the only municipality who have chosen  to put together such a local social model, built on 3 pillars: a minimum income benefit, housing assistance and family support. Zita, Boglarka, Lilla and Emöke, social workers at the Family Welfare Center of Zuglo, explained us how all services – as well in benefits as in kind – are grouped together in one center, to allow for  comprehensive assistance to be delivered to families in need, according to their personal situation. To build the social services, the municipal council relied not only on the expertise of qualified people at the Center, but also on the knowledge of the Budapest Institute that compared practices across Europe. Actually, the minimum income benefits has its maximum at the level of minimum pension, at 28.500 Forint (around 90€), a cap that is imposed by national law. But on top of this, extra benefits can be granted for family assistance, housing and emergency support.  These extras are indispensible when you know that a family with 2 children would need around 250.000 forint per month to live a decent life. Beneficiaries have to register at the job center and 20% of them manage to reintegrate in the world of work. For people furthest away from the labour market, the center provides group social work, psychological and medical care. There are 800 beneficiaries at the moment, which is a very low number. Street community workers are doing outreach work with young people, leaflets are distributed and at the start of the project there was a lot of media attention, but more should be done to bring people in need to the center. The Zuglo social model gets the full support of the Mayor and the municipal council. But amongst the citizens there are also voices that are opposed to this ‘wasting money on the poor’ and the opposition expressed concern for ‘social welfare tourism’ with poor citizens from other districts moving to Zuglo because of the benefits, a fear that never materialised until today.

In the afternoon, together with the Deputy Mayor of Zuglo, Rebeka Szabo, we visited a very special project in the package of social services of the Center. Rozsa Magdolna runs a hair and beauty saloon where people who are sent by the Center can get their hair cut or dyed or their nails treated, for example when they are applying for a job, or just to give them back their self-respect. At the same time, this visit to the saloon presents an excellent occasion for Rozsa, who is not only a cosmetician but also a social worker, to talk about people’s personal problems and what can be done about this. The model is so successful that it is spreading around the globe, with examples in France, Spain and in the USA. Rozsa will engage in TED talks in the autumn to promote the pratice.

We will leave Hugary tomorrow, with warm feelings for courageous activists who proved to us that in the field of fighting povery and giving people back their dignity, Hungary does have excellent examples that deserve to be exported to the rest of Europe! At the time of the Hungarian revolution Anna Kethly was the second women elected to te Hungarian parliament. She was a radical fighter against social injustice and poverty and some of her party colleagues called her ‘the Joan of Arc of Hungarian politics’. It looks like her spirit is still present amongst activists in Hungary.

A big thank you and many hugs for our Hungarian EMIN team and especially for Johanna who made this journey possible !!!!